Slaying Dragons 

Isaiah 27:1
“In that day the Lord with His severe sword, great and strong, Will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan that twisted serpent; And He will slay the reptile that is in the sea.”

The Bible often uses figurative language to enhance our understanding of spiritual things. Jesus is referred to as a Lion so we would reflect upon His power and a Lamb so we would understand His humility and willingness to be sacrificed for our sin. The devil is also represented with figurative language. He is referred to as an angel of light who goes about to deceive and a roaring lion who seeks to devour his prey. Here in this text it seems likely that Isaiah is referring to Satan as a twisted serpent who will ultimately be destroyed by the sword of the Lord. Satan is referred to as a serpent in other texts. In fact the first mention of him is in the garden where he appears as a serpent to deceive Eve and lead her into rebellion against God. Later, the book of Revelation takes us into the future where we see the dragon defeated, chained and cast into the bottomless pit.

I find it interesting that in the midst of the spiritual, social and economic chaos that Israel was facing during the time of Isaiah the he would draw the attention of the people to a time when the devil will ultimately be judged. I also find the weapon of choice quite interesting; He uses the “great and strong sword of the Lord.” The weapon that will ultimately defeat the devil is the same weapon that is needed to deal with his attacks on a daily basis. Paul referred to the Bible as “the sword of the Spirit” and Jesus used the scriptures to forge a counterattack against the temptations He faced in the wilderness. It is through the word of God that Satan will ultimately be defeated and it is with the Word of God that we will have victory over him on a daily basis.

The Bible teaches that Satan casts fiery darts into the mind of the believer. These darts come in the form of thoughts that are ungodly in nature. We are made aware of a situation and are immediately filled with thoughts of fear, worry, unforgiveness or even rage. It is at that point when we must wield the sword of the Spirit and counterattack our thoughts with what the Bible teaches. Instead of continuing down a train of thought that leads us to ungodly action we must choose to let the sword defeat the dragon. Because of the importance of the God’s word it is no wonder that the first spiritual attack recorded in Scripture was a frontal assault against the validity and trustworthiness of the Bible. The serpent said, “has God really said…”

What comfort there is in knowing that a day is coming when the dragon will be defeated and we will be free of all the trouble he has created.

Jim

 

You’re Doing It Wrong

1 Thessalonians 2:13 

“For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”

A few days ago I was working at my computer using a program that had been updated with new features. While I had used the program before, these new features added elements with which I was unfamiliar. I was having trouble with what should have been a pretty simple task. Each time I tried to make it do what I wanted, the program would override my action, doing something else to the document. In frustration, I called out for help from one of the other pastors, who is quite computer savvy. When he came to my aid I said, “This stupid thing is not working.” To which he replied. “That’s because you are doing it wrong.” After a moment of being offended, I realized he was right and I humbled myself allowing him to show me the correct way to work the program. I was delighted to find it was not the program that was being stupid, and the upgrades were actually quite helpful. But what does that have to do with our text?

“The word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”

I have heard people say something to the effect of, “I tried reading the Bible, but it did not work for me.” Others, might even goes so far as to say, “I tried Jesus, it did not work.” To which I think the proper response would be, “you are doing it wrong.” Notice that Paul speaks of the effectiveness of the Word of God to work in the life of the believer. He actually lists three necessities if we want the Word of God to work effectively in us.

You received the word of God which you heard from us”

First, they took the time to hear the Word of God. We read in Romans that “faith comes by hearing the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). The first step to being transformed by God’s Word is to receive the Word. We must put ourselves in a place where we are ingesting the Word of God on a regular basis. This includes the need for daily Bible reading, as well as church attendance, where we are being taught through the Word of God. Sadly, not all churches teach the Word. Find one that emphasizes the Bible and teaches through it.

“. . .you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, . . .”

Second, as they read through the Word, or heard Paul teach, they recognized these were not the opinions of man to be argued with, updated or discarded. Instead, they realized the Bible is in fact, the Word of God given to man. Writing to Timothy, Paul declared the Word of God is inspired and profitable. We all like that word profit, it means we gain from it. When we understand the Bible is of great value, take the time to listen to it, not to argue with God, or try to conform its teaching to fit our lifestyles, we will find that it effectively works in us.

“. . . the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”

Finally, Paul declares when they heard the Word, it was coupled with faith. They believed God wanted to do exactly what He said and they expected to see those things worked out in their lives. I recently read a tweet that said, “If you are not praying for a miracle you probably won’t get one.” The same idea is true when reading the Word. If you do not believe what God is saying, you are not going to be willing to put it into practice, and you will find yourselves accusing the Word of God of being impotent, instead of effectual.

Allow me to encourage you to approach your Bible as the Word of God, receiving it daily, trusting in its warnings and promises, so you, like the Thessalonians, may find that it has effectively worked in you.

Pastor Jim


  

Tested 

Psalms 105:19
“…The word of the Lord tested him.”

This psalm recounts the faithfulness of God during the days of the patriarchs. After mentioning Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Psalmist reminds us of the struggles Joseph faced after being sold into slavery by his own brothers. We know he experienced betrayal, beating, false accusations and imprisonment. Each trial he faced was a means by which the Word of God put him to the test.

We face similar experiences that put us to the test. When we face heartache, confusion, difficulty or disappointment, we are essentially being put to the test by the promises of God. We are left to decide if we will trust in the scattered array of emotions we face, or in the ever changing experiences of life, or in the unchanging promises of God. Down through the ages, saints have faced extremely difficult experiences. Some have allowed these to undo their faith and even sideline them from their Master’s service. Others have chosen to cling to the promises of God, allowing them to provide comfort and direction, as they continue following Christ. There is little question that we will face trials in life. It is important that we realize,  the promises of God can stand the test of trials. God will be faithful to His word, and His promises will carry you through till the end.

Pastor Jim

 

Planted In The House

Psalms 92:13
“Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.”

It seems the devil and the Lord both understand the importance of the church. The Lord exhorts us regarding the need to be in fellowship, and the devil uses a wide array of tactics to keep us away. We have all heard phrases like,

“I am too busy.”

“No one was nice to me there.”

“The church is filled with hypocrites.”

I even heard the story of a man, who said, “As long as Mr. So and so is still alive I will never step foot in that place.”

It seems that we are the only ones who fail to recognize how important church attendance is. The Psalmist declares why we should be willing to endure sick children, music that might not be our first choice, crowded parking lots, awkward seasons of not knowing people very well, and even sermons that may on occasion be a bit too long. He declares, it is the one who plants himself in the house of God who will find himself flourishing in his relationship with the Lord.

The church was designed by God and purchased with the blood of His Son. He created it to be the place where His people would gather for fellowship, corporate worship and the study of His word. The reality is that all the difficulties we endure to remain a fixed part of the local church, are part of the sanctification process where God uses the circumstances of life to conform us into the image of Jesus.

Come and be planted in the house of the Lord!

Pastor Jim

 

His Habitat

Psalms 26:8
“Lord, I have loved the habitation of Your house, and the place where Your glory dwells.”

Life is filled with important things and with essential things. Often, what is important will overshadow what is essential. David was an important man with many responsibilities; he was a husband, father, musician, soldier and a king. Each role he played added new responsibilities and threatened his time with God. To guard against this, David learned to fall in love with the house of the Lord, because there he could experience the glory of God.
To be fair, we must recognize that the glory of God can be revealed anywhere. In a previous psalm, David explained that the heavens declare the glory of God and the earth shows forth His handiwork (Psalm 19). We recognize it is possible to experience God anywhere and at any time. That being said, we must also recognize that there are places where we have a much higher likelihood of experiencing the presence, touch, voice and glory of God.

God loves to reveal Himself to the contrite and humble, so if we come seeking to receive from Him, we are likely to experience His presence. Israel was instructed to offer morning and evening sacrifices, so if we begin our day reading the Bible and praying about the things we read, we are likely to experience His glory. God set up the church as the gathering place for the saints, and promised to be in our midst when we meet. So when we gather to worship and learn with God’s people, we are likely to experience His glory.

Perhaps one of the most practical ways to grow in Christ and to ensure that we remain walking with Him, is to learn to love the places where God’s glory dwells.

Pastor Jim

 

Sound Of Silence 

Malachi 4:4
“Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, Which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.”

The book of Malachi brings the Old Testament to a close. For a period of 1,100 years God at various times and in diverse manners spoke to His people through the prophets. That time had now concluded and for the next 400 years heaven was silent. It was not until the angel appeared to Zechariah and Elizabeth, that this silence was broken. Knowing that this time was coming, God exhorted the people to think back upon His written Word.

Our walk with God is sometimes like that. We are confused regarding a decision we are trying to make. We pray, fast, and seek counsel from others, but we seem to be met with silence from above. When this silence lingers, it can often lead to discouragement and even to doubt. I think it is important to keep in mind, that God allows those times in our lives so we will learn to cling to His Word. Times of silence are designed to cause us to exalt His promises and rest upon them. God exalts His Word above His own name, and desires that we learn to do the same. The most powerful and most trustworthy things in all of life, are the promises found tucked away in the pages of your Bible. Sadly, many of those pages remain unturned, and we are left discouraged when we should be filled with hope, help, direction and strength. If you are facing a silent season in your life, be sure to follow the advice of Malachi, and reflect upon the promises of God.

Pastor Jim

 

Changes 

Ezekiel 46:9
“But when the people of the land come before the Lord on the appointed feast days, whoever enters by way of the north gate to worship shall go out by way of the south gate; and whoever enters by way of the south gate shall go out by way of the north gate. He shall not return by way of the gate through which he came, but shall go out through the opposite gate.”

Ezekiel is establishing some rules that will guide the people as they worship at the Temple. Some of these guidelines were clearly spelled out by Moses hundreds of years earlier, while others seem to be brand new. One such regulation required the people to leave the city from the opposite gate from which they had entered. If they came in from the south, they had to leave from the north, and vice-versa. No clear explanation is given, but it is not too difficult to draw some application for the believer today. Simply put, we should leave worship different than how we arrived.

True worship is drawing near to God, and getting our eyes on the Lord. When this happens, we will begin to see ourself in light of who God is. The brightness of His glory will illuminate our lives and expose those things He desires to change. If I come into worship angry, bitter, or filled with unforgiveness, the glory of who God is will shine upon my heart.  His glory will expose those things, and lead me to the cross, where I can lay them down and leave free of their burden. If we leave worship the same as we came into worship, it is likely we were involved in more of a concert or a sing along, than a time spent in the presence of the God of Glory.

It is valuable to prepare your heart to seek the Lord. To take a few moments before you begin singing to simply ask God to search your heart, and give Him license to make any changes He determines necessary. One of the great benefits of worship is that we are in the presence of the only one with the actual power to change us.

Pastor Jim